Click here for my pretzel blog post with even more instructions and tips on making pretzels.
Pretzels (German Laugenbrez'n) Recipe
Proof the yeast by dissolving it and the brown sugar in the 1/8 cup of water. Wait a few minutes until the yeast starts to foam.
Stir in the rest of the warm water, salt and flour. Knead the dough until very smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes. If the dough is sticky, add more flour by tablespoons until it no longer sticks to your hands.
Preheat the oven to 400 F (200 C) and line two large baking sheets with parchment paper.
Bring the 7 cups of water to a slow boil in a large saucepan. Add the baking soda and stir. [If you're interested in the lye method, after suiting up in your safety gear, dissolve 2 tablespoons (30 g) of food-grade lye in a quart (1liter) of water. DO NOT HEAT the lye solution. Use the lye bath the same as the baking soda bath.]
Divide the dough into eight equal portions and roll each into a long whip about 2 1/2 feet long.
Form each whip into a pretzel shape. The pretzels will be about six inches in diameter.
Using two slotted spoons or spatulas, place each formed pretzel in turn into the baking soda bath for 10 - 15 seconds. Hold it under the surface to get good coverage. The pretzels will puff up a little. Remove from the bath and let drip a couple of seconds before transferring to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
Immediately after placing it on the baking sheet, slit the "belly" of each pretzel with a sharp knife and sprinkle liberally with salt while it is still wet.
Bake 18-19 minutes until crispy brown. They will not rise further in the oven. Remove to a cooling rack immediately after baking.
Serve warm with Weißwurst (Munich's famous mild, white, veal sausage), sweet Bavarian mustard (Händlmaier's is the de facto standard in Bavaria) and a tall German beer.